Tomato Sauce with Beans

About this recipe

We don't make pasta with beans, but other families do and they seem happy. This recipe is also called Thunder and Lightning because of the beans and chili pepper. Try it—you'll like it!


Place a large saucepot on the stove; turn heat to just under medium and fry:

  • 2-3 tsp. olive oil,
  • ½ cooking onion (diced),
  • 3-4 cloves garlic (minced), 
  • 2 cups diced cooked ham (or 1 lb. loose sausage meat),
  • 1½ tbsp. basil, 2 tsp. salt, and 1½ tsp. chili pepper.

When the meat is browned and the onion looks good, add:

  • 2 (19 oz.) cans cannellini or romano beans (drained and rinsed),
  • 1 cup white wine.

Reduce heat, cover, and let wine absorb into everything for 10 minutes. Remove lid, turn heat back up, and cook another few minutes until the wine has almost evaporated. Then add:

  • 3 (28 oz.) cans plum tomatoes (either hand-squashed or blended) and a little water,
  • 1 stalk celery,
  • 1 peeled carrot.

Bring to a boil. When boiling, reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 1 hour. Taste for seasoning after 30 minutes.

After simmering, uncover and turn heat back up to medium. Continue simmering with the lid off until the sauce looks good (another 10-20 minutes). When it’s done, discard the celery and carrot.


  • Try making this dish with 1 lb. dried beans. See BEANS for cooking instructions.
  • Remember, cannellini are just white kidney beans with a much cooler name. You can also use chickpeas instead.
    Instead of ham, you can use chopped lean bacon. In this case, only use a drop of oil (1 tbsp.) and fry ½ lb. bacon before adding the garlic and onion. If your bacon isn’t lean, remove some of the fat and use more slices.

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